Monday, November 28, 2005

General Strike Thursday

The KCTU is set to begin a nine-day general strike Dec 1st in protest of the government's labour reform plan. Here's a short story on it at today online. Check in here for further updates.
Update -- here is a good story that sets the tone a night before the strike. Seems the FKTU and KCTU have split over the issue, but the KCTU is enjoying support from farmers and teachers' groups. You can also see my older article on the issue here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

APEC protest: sources

(Pusan Protests)

Well, there is lots of coverage and analysis to provide on Friday's APEC protests which will take a little more time than I have today, so this post will be more of a nod to other posts so readers, and I, can try to grasp exactly what happened.

CNN has a short story and video on the farmers protest against plans to open the rice market. Monsters and critics also had an early report on protests but their numbers, along with CNN's are inaccurate. As mentioned earlier, protests groups expected around 100,000 participants in Friday protest, but, as Kotaji remarks, the police (combined, thhere were over 50,000 police and other security personel) interferred with the buses that protest groups had hired and were also able to block many from congregating near the bridge leading to the Haeundae Beach resort area where the conference was being held, nevertheless, between 15-30,000 still made it to the bridges near the BEXCO convention center. From Kotaji's blog:

As the day wore on it seems that protestors converged towards the bridge connecting the city to the area where the summit was being held. Here they were met by thousands of riot police (a total of 30,000 were deployed in all apparently) with a barricade of buses and shipping containers. As might be expected, some some pitched battles broke out between the bamboo-spear wieldingfarmers and the riot police, who began to respond with water cannon. In the tradition of Korean demonstrations things got quite extreme with riot police apparently wielding 3-metre-long metal pipes at demonstrators and angry protestors responding by using ropes to pull the shipping containers from the barricades and into the sea. The fighting went on after dark, but it seems that the police were eventually able to disperse the protestors without too much trouble.


The Korea Times also reports that protests continued on Saturday, this time at the subway station in Haeundae, about 4km from the conference site, but protestors were surrounded at the station and no skirmishes broke out.

Apec has sparked a tradition of oppositional protest to its yearly meetings, a brief, and not very critical, summary of which you can find in the globe and mail's article on Busan here. For a more interesting look on how the protest was percieved on the ground in Busan, here is an article in the Asia times.

In terms of the summit itself, I'm not exactly sure what was accomplished as APEC tends to act more as a coordinating body rather than a specific framework for economic and political issues. However, for Korea directly, there has been pressure to expand the rice import quota to 7.96 percent by 2014, under WTO rules. In a joint statement, APEC leaders didn't say much except promise to help fight bird flu and express their support for the Doha development round of the WTO which still may collapse anyways over the issue of agricultural subsidies.

This is all I have time to post at the moment, but in the next few days it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the issues around the nature of APEC itself, perhaps hazarding a few comments on why farmers and students seem to have had a bigger role than workers (please hazard your own comments as well if you have time); I think it's also worthwhile to think about the geography of the protest and the role of the police and local government played in obstructing routes to the meeting and limiting other sites of protest. Some of their other spatial strategies seem common to APEC and WTO protests in general (such as designated off-site protest pens and other such zonal strategies). There is also the issue of hype created around 'anti globalization' activists coming to protest which you can read on our earlier posts.

All for now.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Come Friday

About 12,000 Korean farmers took part in strident protests outside of the National Assembly Tuesday night against the proposed liberalization of the rice market (for more info see APEC Busan section below). Here are two short reports and pic from Radio New Zealand, and American Journal-Star. Farmers have vowed to continue their protests in Busan on Friday.

(Burning Police Bus in Seoul)

Internationalized Chaebol

Here's some interesting news. Ssamgyoung Auto's union has just announced a strike vote against its Chinese majority investor, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). The strike is against technology relocation and I wonder if their idea for a strike may come from similar strategies such as those employed by the movement of reclaimed factories in Argentina whom have occupied factories that have been shipping or selling off their fixed capital investments to overseas buyers and locations in the wake of economic crisis. Here's more on the strike from Joongang Daily:
Unionized workers at Ssangyong Motors Co., Korea's fourth-largest carmaker, said they will go on strike if the company's largest shareholder reneges on a pledge to invest in the company's domestic factory. Ssangyong Motors' workers want Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to invest $1 billion in Korea, fulfilling a 2004 pledge made when the Chinese company bought 48.9 percent of Ssangyong for $500 million. The workers oppose Shanghai Auto's plan to build Ssangyong Kyron sport utility vehicles in China."The union took a vote and 79 percent of the workers were in favor of the strike," said Cho Young-jin, spokesman for Ssangyong's union. "We won't stage a strike immediately but wait to see what Shanghai Auto does."

The Korea Times also reports that union leaders claimed that SAIC Motor, which holds a 50.91 percent stake in Ssangyong Motor, has no plan to invest even a penny in the Korean subsidiary since its acquisition last year.

In my opinion this strike vote is interesting in that the chaebol have become increasingly internationalized (both in their activity and ownership) and, thus, so must labour tactics. Of course, the Argentinia case is somewhat different in that the domestically dominant class has long been internationalized at least in terms of its colonial origins and dispositions thus its forms of allegiance seem somewhat different then Korea's dominant groups which have, in general, been more economically nationalist when it has suited them, and now perhaps internationalist, when it doesn't. But the Ssamgyoung case is even different because we are no longer discussing a dominant class that is not simply internationalized in activity but in its constitution. Thus, how labour goes about attempting to woo an internationally owned corporation (ssamgyoung) to invest in a national space (Korea) might be an interesting problematic for the future. In some ways, the legitimacy of South Korean governments may rest on how well they can deal with this problematic, and how much more it will expand.

This is also something to continue to think about as we see what sort of agreements and protest the APEC Busan event (see below) generates.

Monday, November 14, 2005


It seems that November 18th will main day for protests against the APEC conference, though there was a protest on Saturday with about 20,000 in attendance.

In other APEC news, here is a story from the Korea times about how the National Police Agency has banned about a thousand NGO activists. According to the Korea Times, they've also submitted a list of 400 foreigners who will be allowed entry but will be subject to close monitoring, as it is feared they could organize anti-APEC demonstrations there.
Notices will be distributed in and around Pusan (Busan) to inform foreign activists of possible punishments, including deportation, if they take part in anti-APEC protests, they said. The APEC forum is to take place in South Korea’s second largest city of Pusan on the southeast coast from Nov. 12-19, with a summit of the 21 leaders of APEC member states to be held on the final two days. Meanwhile, Pusan, host city of the APEC summit and forum, is trying to make potential anti-APEC protesters understand that the international gathering is not a rich man’s club, according to a senior city official.

Farmers protesting rice liberalization, one of the APEC side deals, have also set up camp at myeongdong cathedral and were part of Saturday's rally. The Minjok Dongshin reports that they expect up to or over 100, 000 in attendance for Friday's protest. Here's a more in depth look at the rice liberalization issue from the Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice (they also a have more recent statement on chaebol reform here, fyi).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

APEC is coming to town

APEC is beginning next weekend in Busan (I have a bit of interest in APEC, having participated in a over-a-year-long public inquiry into the policing of the 1997 summit here in Vancouver - read more here in the Canadian Encyclopedia). Here's some links for you. Here's the official site: and here's an early story on potential opposition and police response. I'll post more analysis as I get a chance...

Update -- Here's the link for the Korean anti-apec site, they have a small english section. Here is pretty stimulating flash intro for the bush protest in busan at the leader's summit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bad for tourists

Here's an older story from the Joongang Daily that I have to post in entirety.

(September 26, 2005)

(PIC) Policemen yesterday removing steel mesh from windows of buses used to transport riot policemen. The National Police Agency said it removed the mesh from all 1,131 buses, citing a drastic drop in violent demonstrations as the main reason. A symbol of the military government in the 1980s, the vehicles were dubbed "chicken coop cars," and used both to transport forces and blockade roads. Police said there were 809 illegal violent demonstrations in 1998 but the number fell to 215 in 2001, 91 last year, and only 34 by August of this year. "The buses also give a bad impression to foreign tourists," officials added.

Note: Looks like a positive step, I always found them unsightly, parked as they were at most prominent corners in the city (shin chon, jongro, etc). I would often get the suspicision that something was going down, even if these buses were just parked there for no reason. I wonder if the US embassy is still surrounded by a fleet of them. Hmmmm. Will the buses will still be parked around town, but cageless? Or are they going to hide them altogether?